Posted on May 13, 2009 by Flames
Available at RPGNow.com
Aletheia is a journey into the weird world on the fringe of our own. It is an exploration of the supernatural and the paranormal in the modern world, and while the characters may find this experience holistically terrifying, terror and horror is not built into the system. Characters are designed as individuals, but they are brought together as a team due to their pasts and genealogical connections, regardless of profession or ability. The team has a residence and funds that are intricately connected to the setting, and after the team is assembled, they take off on their investigations of the paranormal and the weird.
Art and Layout
The layout is clean, clear, and well done overall. The artwork fits well into the book and the artists used have represented the setting very well. The book isn’t thick with art, and the layout suffers for it; there are several portions of blank space at the end of some of the chapters, and while it doesn’t in anyway impact the setting or system, I consider it bad form from a layout aspect.
The tables and informational sidebars are very nice. They add information where it is warranted and support the feeling throughout the book that it is designed to not just be a guide for the player, but to be informative and helpful as well. There are several places in character creation alone where it states that it may be best to check other areas of the book in order to fully understand the choices made during character creation. That is a rarity seldom seen in most RPG books, and it only seems like common sense, but it represents a commitment on behalf of the writers to actually suggest it instead of just letting players and GMs stumble through it.
Layout Rating: 4 out of 5
Character creation revolves around a point-buy system. Each of the system’s four attributes can have a starting value of 1 to 5. The character then chooses a descriptor for each of their attributes which may give bonuses in certain situations. The player then chooses a profession and extracurricular activities for her character and follows it up with paranormal abilities. The combination of all of those grants a dice pool for performing any given action. That dice pools consists of D6s and a given dice in the pool is considered a success when a 5 or 6 is rolled. The GM determines the target difficulty of the action to be performed per easy-to-follow guides in the book, and the player tries to meet or beat the target number by rolling a number of successes. Additionally, if the character’s profession would grant a bonus, there is a chance the GM will allow an Automatic Victory to grant more successes along with whatever the results of the dice pool roll mandates. It’s a very quick and easy system that encourages creativity and common sense in equal parts.
System Rating: 5 out of 5
The concepts of the book are woven together like a tapestry. There is plenty of room for GM expansion, but at the same time, the concepts of general weirdness and dual existence of mythology and reality are very well presented. Even the fluff in the book serves only to give a better grasp on the setting and even the system; it does exactly what fluff is supposed to do instead of acting as filler like it does in so many other books.
Concept Rating: 5 out of 5
Anyone can pickup Aletheia and play it. Anyone. It would be best played by those who have a deep love of out of place artifacts (the Babylon Batteries, Egyptian Light bulbs, the Antikythera Device, etc) and a firm understanding of conspiracy and multi-dimensional paradoxes. However, barring a Master’s degree in Ancient History or super-dimensional physics, I think most gaming groups will have a blast with the system. The GM can have plots that are virtually unimaginable in other settings and systems, or they could just go with the clues given and help unravel the twisted mystery inherent to the setting itself.
Playability Rating: 5 out of 5
To say that this system fires on all cylinders is almost an insult. This system is a V-10 powerhouse crammed into a small-block V-8. It’s got everything that a game of this sort should have, not a word is wasted, not a paragraph is out of place, and there is nothing given that isn’t needed. However, more effort could have been taken to fill the pages clear to the end of the chapters, and that is my one gripe about the book.
Aletheia promises and delivers a unique setting and a good system and that’s exactly what the player gets. It’s more than a matter of getting your money worth out of Aletheia; it’s a matter of buying an RPG that will keep you going for years in either little one-shot adventures or long campaigns.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Review by Kevin Rohan